As promised, Republicans who now have the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will almost certainly vote to repeal last year's health care bill, perhaps as soon as today. And it will likely be a meaningless gesture, meant to satisfy political goals, not governing ones.

As promised, Republicans who now have the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will almost certainly vote to repeal last year's health care bill, perhaps as soon as today. And it will likely be a meaningless gesture, meant to satisfy political goals, not governing ones.


Indeed, not only is the Democrat-controlled Senate unlikely to go along, but even if it were, President Obama would veto the measure. That's what makes repeal so easy, because the vote in the House carries no actual responsibility. Arguably it's a pose put on to trick the gullible into thinking the Republicans they voted for are doing something when they're not.


The very title of the bill - "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" - betrays that. Even if that moniker has a ring of truth to it - many economists find that debatable - Republicans know full well that doing nothing on health care also would have been a jobs killer, for anyone who's actually paid any attention to medical inflation in this country and its impact on business bottom lines. Even for those of us with health insurance, whose premiums and deductibles have gone down the last decade or even stayed the same? Many citizens take for granted that that insurance will always be there for them, but they shouldn't. No one can plausibly argue that the health care status quo, pre-2010, enhanced America's economic competitiveness globally.


Meanwhile, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says repeal would aggravate the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years, considerably more in the long term. Interestingly, and conveniently, House Speaker John Boehner and Co. have excused this bill from their own rule that any spending increases be offset by corresponding cuts. Fiscally conservative? Not exactly.


And if the new House majority were ultimately successful, where would that leave the millions of Americans who are uninsured, sometimes through no fault of their own - say, because of a pre-existing condition? Do Republicans feel any moral compulsion to address that? Given that those uninsured drive up costs for the rest of us, any pragmatic one? The group Catholics United does, on both counts, as it is urging its members to put the heat on GOP newcomers such as Bobby Schilling - himself a Catholic - in the 17th Congressional District to vote no, arguing that "repealing the Affordable Care Act would turn back the clock to a time when individuals and families were vulnerable to the whims of insurers who could arbitrarily deny coverage, hike up premiums, or drop patients from their insurance plans without notice."


Many on Capitol Hill may be about to discover that governing is harder than coming up with campaign slogans.


We are not defending this law. In fact, while this opinion page supported health care reform in general principle, we did not endorse last year's specific bill because in our view it fell well short on the cost containment side. Democrats didn't even give lip service to some alternatives - like letting insurance companies compete for business across state lines, tort reform, etc. Some predict it will put the states, their Medicaid programs and their already beleaguered budgets in a world of even greater hurt. Certainly the process left much to be desired; the horse trading that went on to effectively buy the votes necessary for passage was unconscionable. Now questions have been raised about the law's constitutionality, specifically regarding the requirement that everyone have health insurance whether they want it or not. It may be just as likely that the fate of this law will be determined in the courts as in Congress.


We've listened to the contention that the Affordable Care Act is so flawed legislators need to start all over. We've heard influential Republicans say that repeal will kickstart other changes, will produce "better policy alternatives designed to lower costs, improve access, protect the doctor-patient relationship and get lawyers out of operating rooms," according to Congressman Eric Cantor's office.


Sounds fine, but he and others will forgive many Americans who believe this bill means what it says - that it's an attempt at "repeal," not reform, at a kill and not a cure. Whatever certain polls may say, we trust most citizens want the latter, not the former. If Republicans think they're going to have an easier time of this than Democrats did, they're probably kidding themselves. Just as there were special interest groups opposed to this bill, so are there deep pockets in favor of it, and they've already started their full-court press.


As we said, this vote is more symbolic than substantive. That does not mean it's inconsequential. To the degree it signals that House Republicans are hell-bent on putting up obstacles to reform not only on this issue but on others, that they're more interested in putting on a show than in governing, that they'd rather create problems for the White House than solve them for everybody, then they're no better a choice than Democrats. Gotta believe U.S. voters will figure that out eventually. And then where do they turn?


Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star